Situation: The cupboards

In this Step you’re introduced to a real case scenario that Helen witnessed in a secondary school, and you may have witnessed a similar scene yourself. Take a moment to read through Helen’s notes from her observation of the situation:

The Science block in this large secondary school was on the third floor and once there, there were three classrooms and a preparation room off a medium sized hallway/lobby. Students could not go into class until the teacher arrived, so this meant three classes of students were waiting either in the hallway or down the stairs. This didn’t seem to cause a problem and students were not unreasonably behaved and would file into class once the teacher arrived.

Then came a time when there was a need to house some class sets of books, which needed to be available for students who couldn’t afford to buy their own. However, the only place that could be found to accommodate the books was this particular hallway. Five large metal cupboards were then installed and the class sets of books, along with some other books, were kept in these locked cupboards.

The hallway went from a reasonably sized uncluttered space to a small, cramped and noisy space. The metal cupboards made a loud noise particularly if someone crashed into them. The students being inquisitive and easily bored, decided that they needed to get into the cupboards and very soon the cupboard locks were broken which meant even though the cupboards could be closed they could not be locked.

The cupboards then became easily accessible for anyone to rummage through, and even though the purpose of the cupboards was to hold text books for students who needed them, the cupboards quickly became very disorganised which made it difficult for the students who wanted to use the books to study to find anything. This would then discourage students to study further or find the right book to help them in their work.

Also, the lack of space caused a behavioural change in the students who had been perfectly civil to each other prior to the cupboards being installed. Students easily found themselves getting restless and impatient which was reflected in their behaviour and found themselves getting into disagreements or fights. If they were unlucky, they were caught by a member of school staff who would reprimand them or worse, sent to the headteacher’s office.

This caused the following results:

  • Students feeling intimidated and anxious
  • Students being aggressive
  • Students feeling mischievous and disruptive

Before you move on, take a few minutes to consider what you would do to stop students behaving like this? Generate some ideas and post them on the discussion board below.

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This article is from the free online course:

Supporting Successful Learning in Secondary School

University of Reading